Loving Laundry

With the holidays in full gear, my college children will be coming home for Christmas break.  In just few days, I’ll have half a dozen children under my roof again!  Praise God! I’ll also have mounds and mounds of never ending laundry!  Praise God! I know this reaction is quite different from what is expected. . .but I’ve humbly learned to sort, wash, fold, and love the art of doing laundry.

While working as an RN in a Children’s cardiovascular unit, I was assigned to care for a patient who was airlifted from a neighboring state to be placed on heart-lung bypass.  This beautiful 10-year old girl was healthy a week prior to her admission.  She was diagnosed with an aggressive strain of influenza that relentlessly weakened her respiratory system.  While caring for her, I would have conversations with her parents, particularly her mother.  At first (and appropriately) they revolved around numbers, machines, fluids, ventilator readings, monitors, alarms, and vital signs.  As days passed, our conversations still revolved around her daughter’s health, however, she became more comfortable speaking about other topics.

One evening, I remember telling her that when I got off work and returned home, I would have a tremendous amount of laundry to do.  At the time, my children wore uniforms to school and were involved in various activities—church youth groups, soccer, gymnastics, basketball, track, cross country, Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, piano, and football.  I told her I dreaded opening the laundry room to see my hampers greeting me with overflowing dirty clothes.  She paused momentarily and slowly looked at the flashing numbers on the monitors while listening to th sounds of the machines working, pumping, humming.  After a few minutes of silence, she looked at me and said, “I would love to do Sophie’s laundry again.”  In that brief moment I realized how mundane yet precious laundry is.

Doing laundry for your loved ones and children is a normal task.  That is what is so beautiful about it.  It means that they are functioning, playing, eating, running, smiling, laughing, and living life.  Children soil their clothes because they are healthy and alive!  Not washing their clothes means a certain normalcy in the household world is missing.

When I got home from work that evening, I walked into my laundry room and smiled at the hampers bursting with dirty jerseys, socks, and ketchup stained uniform shorts.  I grabbed a pile of dirty clothes in my arms and squeezed it and thanked God for laundry, normalcy, and six healthy beautiful children.  The next day I couldn’t wait to return to work to tell Sophie’s mom how her words and thoughts on laundry completely changed my mindset and dread of conquering the task of daily laundry.

As I walked into the cardiovascular unit, there was increased activity and commotion with an unusually large number of people around Sophie’s bedside.  I quickly made my way to the group of medical personnel and immediately noticed the display of the numbers on the machines and monitors that were blank.  I turned to the charge nurse and, with tears filling her eyes, she whispered to me that Sophie had just died.  I was stunned.  I couldn’t speak or move.  I stood completely frozen as I watched Sophie’s mother speak sweetly and softly to her child while caressing her face and body.  The scene is forever imprinted in my brain.

With the number of hospital staff, chaplain, ministers, and family members, I was unable to speak to Sophie’s mom that evening.  I wanted to hug her and thank her for opening my eyes and heart to appreciate the normalcy of everyday living and for teaching me to be thankful while finding beauty in things that seem mundane and burdensome.  I’ve changed my perspective and have learned to be grateful and not complain when piles of dirty clothes away me every day or when carpooling seems endless.  I’m grateful for runny noses, stomach bugs, sprained ankles, colds, fevers, and sore throats—for none of these are life threatening and each will eventually run its course.

Although this happened years ago, I continue to think about and pray for Sophie and her mom.  It was a tragic illness and I feel a deep sadness each time I remember her mom will never have the chance to do Sophie’s laundry again.

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Angie Elser

Angie Elser

Angie writes from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the mother of six children and co-founder of the MOMMS (Mothers of Major and Minor Seminarians) Prayer watch for the Diocese of Little Rock.

15 thoughts on “Loving Laundry”

  1. I remember you sharing this story with me years ago and it still touches my heart so very deeply. Thanks to you, I too love my piles of laundry. 😘

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  2. Angie, thank you for this heavenly perspective! This is a powerful reminder for me, especially this time of year, to be grateful for my everyday jobs.

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  3. Beautiful. I remember mountains of laundry when my children were all at home. Now that they are spread out all over the US, there is very little laundry.

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  4. Absolutely beautiful Angie! What a heartbreaking story that makes me stop and appreciate things that can so easily be viewed as burdens. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Love this. There’s always 2 ways to look at a situation. We would all be better off if we would try to look at the positive side of things!

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  6. Thank you for sharing and reminding us…especially at this crazy time of year, to stop and look for beauty in the simple things and to be thankful!

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  7. Nursing is such a humbling profession! I can relate to going to work and witnessing the extremely painful and hard circumstances many of my patients and their families have gone through, and it really does force me to view my own daily struggles in a new light! Thank for for a sharing your experience and heartfelt thoughts!

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  8. This is such a beautiful reminder. In fact, I came to this realization a few years back when one of our mutual friends was dying from cancer. As I did my laundry, I thought of our friend who was a mother of 3, and lifted her up as I did my laundry. I thought that she would not dread doing the laundry, but probably would rejoice in feeling well enough to do it. From that moment on, I never dreaded it again. I realized how blessed I was to be healthy enough to do it. Thanks for sharing this beautiful reminder. 💗

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  9. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate all of them! Thank you Fran and Tracy for the opportunity to contribute to Bellator Society.
    Blessings to all!

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